Values-based / Identity-based Dispute Negotiation Role-Play:

Values-Based Mediation Simulations

Three new role-play simulations focus on the mediation of values-based disputes. They are now available with Teaching Notes and an Annotated Bibliography from the Program on Negotiation Clearinghouse.

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Three new role-play simulations focus on the mediation of values-based disputes. They are now available with Teaching Notes and an Annotated Bibliography from the Program on Negotiation Clearinghouse. Each game provides an opportunity for students to explore how mediation might be used to address values-based and identity-based disputes–not just interest-based disputes. The parties and their attorneys are asked to craft settlements that do not require them to compromise their fundamental beliefs or values. (Students do not have to be studying law to participate effectively in these simulations.)

The first simulation is entitled Williams v. Northville. It is a five-person, non-scorable negotiation simulation based on a real case. It focuses on a dispute between a public school and a family over classroom discussions and educational materials that are part of a school diversity program depicting same-sex couples and their children. In this simulation, Jim and Jan Williams are the parents of two elementary school children in the Northville Public School System. They have asked the school principal for advance notification anytime homosexuality, same-sex marriage, or families headed by same-sex couples might be discussed in class, and for their children to be excused from such discussions. The principal has denied this request, explaining that no parental notification is required or appropriate when homosexuality is to be discussed as part of the regular school curriculum. The Williamses filed a lawsuit against the school district in state court asserting their right to have their children excused from any part of the curriculum that is contrary to their religious beliefs. The judge resolved the legal question in favor of the school district, holding that parents do not have the right to dictate what a public school may teach their children. The simulation begins when the Williamses file an appeal of the lower court’s decision. Prior to oral argument, the appellate court administrator has urged the parties (and their lawyers) to try to mediate the dispute.

The second simulation is called Ellis v. MacroB. It is another five-person, non-scorable simulation based on a real dispute between an employee and his/her employer, a large, privately held software company. Until recently, Ellis was senior project manager at MacroB, headquartered in California. The simulation begins when a company-wide diversity campaign is launched featuring a series of diversity posters, including one that reads: “I am a gay man and I am MacroB.” The posters were placed in employee work areas, including on the exterior wall of Ellis’s cubicle. Ellis is devoutly religious and part of a faith tradition that holds that homosexuality is sinful and wrong. Deeply disturbed by the poster, Ellis taped several Bible verses to the inside wall of his/her cubicle including quotations condemning homosexuality and predicting dire consequences for those who engages in homosexual acts. When asked to remove the verses, Ellis refused. After several meetings with the company’s diversity manager Ellis offered to remove the passages if MacroB removed its posters depicting homosexual employees. When no agreement was reached, Ellis was given a week off with pay to reconsider. MacroB removed the Bible verses that Ellis had posted. Upon returning to work, Ellis reposted all of the Bible passages, refused to remove them, and was fired for insubordination. Ellis and MacroB reluctantly agreed to speak with a mediator. After hearing from both sides, the mediator suggested that resolution might be possible. The simulation begins as both sides and their lawyers are about to meet the mediator.

The third new simulation is called Springfield OutFest. Based on a real case, it focuses on a dispute between two private organizations and a city over the terms under which a permit for a festival on city property will or won’t be granted. The first organization, Springfield Pride, is a local advocacy group for Springfield’s sizeable lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Springfield Pride organizes an annual street festival called the OutFest to celebrate National Coming Out Day. Salvation Now!, a nationwide network of grassroots religious and social campaigners seeks to bring its religious message directly to those it considers to be living sinful lifestyles. In years past, tensions have flared between the two groups. Last year, they clashed during the OutFest and the police had to restore order. The confrontation dampened the festival atmosphere and attracted unfavorable media attention to the city and the OutFest. The simulation begins one year later. Springfield Pride is again requesting a permit to hold its upcoming OutFest in the city park. Fearing a confrontation and worried about its liability, the city has asked the parties (and their lawyers) to meet and discuss proposed guidelines and restrictions.

All three cases present authentic and hard-to-mediate values-based and identity-based disputes. The Teaching Notes, written by students in Professor Lawrence Susskind’s course at Harvard Law School, reviews five different strategies that mediators might want to try in these situations. Key teaching points include the limits on interest trading when values and identity are at stake, the possibility that resolution may not be the most appropriate goal in such situations, and the need for mediators in values-based disputes to learn how to help parties confront their value differences effectively.

Each case study is also available separately.

To download a PDF version of the Teaching Notes, “Teaching about the Mediation of Values-Based and Identity-Based Disputes,” click here.


Values-Based Mediation Simulations Attributes

Kate Harvey and David Kovick, under the supervision of Lawrence Susskind and Jennifer Brown
PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You are then permitted to view the document on your computer and either print the number of copies you purchased, or forward the electronic file as many times as the number of copies you purchased. You will only receive a link to one electronic file per document. So, if you order 25 soft copies, you may either forward copies of the link to 25 people via e-mail, or print (and/or photocopy) 25 hard copies of the document.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

The purchase price and handling fee are the same for both soft and hard copies. Soft copies do not entail a shipping fee.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 781-966-2751 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 781-966-2751 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, then you should order a single Teacher’s Package for that role simulation. A PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package is also available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. There is no need to order participant materials as well as a Teacher’s Package, as all Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters. Please note that the materials in Teacher’s Packages are for the instructor’s review and reference only, and may not be duplicated for use with participants.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

If you wish to order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Participant Copies.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required; the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Participant Copies.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.